Each taxpayer is an employer. What kind of employer are you?

September 4, 2023 5:45 am

(Photo by photovs/iStock Images)

As we pause to pay tribute to the achievements and contributions of workers to our economy and their struggle to improve working conditions, the role that employers have played and continue to play — for good or ill — is inescapable.

How are employers measuring up in caring out their responsibilities to employees?

A recent Pew Research Center survey provides a thorough assessment.

No doubt, each of us as an employee has thoughts about how well we think our employer is doing in creating an effective work environment and providing the necessary tools and support for us to do our job.

But, how would you measure up as an employer?

Yes, you are an employer. As taxpaying citizens, we all are employers.

We provide and support working conditions, through our tax dollars, for elected officials and other public employees.

If you were evaluated as an employer, how would you measure up?

When it comes to working conditions, hours, health benefits, retirement and competitive salaries — for what is at best a half-time or three-quarter time job for most elected officials — we would be considered great employers.

A brief review of Congressional salaries and allowances is a compelling example.

Based on their salaries, benefits and other perks, one could argue elected officials, i.e., elected employees, have some of the best working conditions.

Elected employees do not have to suffer the discomfort and annoyance of being micromanaged. In fact, it’s questionable whether they have to deal with being managed at all.

Once they are elected to the job, they are free to go about their business, doing what they want, when they want, or nothing at all.

It certainly begs the question whether they are about completing the jobs they were hired to do.

This is especially the case for some elected employees in Congress who are busy chasing political investigations — real or imagined. Such efforts are the major preoccupations getting the most attention.

Is that why you voted for them? Is that what you hired them to do?

What are they getting done in those areas we care about: Passing meaningful policies to finally address the immigration crisis; reduce senseless gun violence; make sure all Americans can access needed health care services; reform the tax system so that everyone pays their fair share of taxes; ensure that all citizens can cast a vote without obstruction.

Those are just some of the major issues we have hired them to work on and find solutions.

How are they doing so far?  How much progress have they made?

A recent poll shows that the approval rating for the current Congress’s performance is 19%, an all-time low. What are we going to do about it?

The real question: As their employer, what are we willing to do to manage, monitor and hold them accountable?

Have we capitulated and become resigned to letting them earn a great salary, with great benefits, and enjoy wonderful time off without performing their jobs?

In your job, are you left to do whatever you want? Say whatever you want? Push your own or someone else’s agenda or priorities at the expense of doing your job?


Yet, as the employer we tolerate our elected employees working fewer hours, accessing better benefits, and receiving good salaries for not doing what we hired them to do.

Many if not most of us struggle to pay taxes from our hard-earned income and yet we accept such behavior.

Some of us even rail against a welfare system that provides needed financial support and benefits for some of the neediest among us. But are we guilty of subsidizing a welfare system under the guise of representative government — a system which often fails to do its job where most needed?

As employers of federal, state and municipal elected officials, we have the power election after election to stop their poor job performance. But too often we do not use it.

We choose to take the easy way out.

We keep hiring many of the same poor performers who instead of working for us are choosing to work for a political party, a personality, or some special interest that has nothing to do with what is best for the public or the country.

As registered voters, we are in charge. We are in control.

Just as we can hire elected employees during one election, we can also fire them during the next election. Sadly, it seems we give many of them job security regardless of what they do or fail to do.

Do you enjoy such job security?

Where is the management and accountability of elected officials at any level of government?

There are many things we can do to manage and hold elected officials accountable.

We are in the greatest position of all. We cannot be fired for expressing our opinion, making suggestions and recommendations, or providing interim evaluations and warnings that they could lose their job.

As employees, we have to do our jobs and do them well. If we fail to do so, especially repeatedly, we will be warned if not fired outright.

Why would we not have the same expectations and enforce the same consequences for our elected employees?

What kind of employer are we?

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.